So Jeff, responding to Zachary the First's comment on his "The Flumph beat this?" post, reminisced about the Bandit Kingdoms campaign. Appealing to my vanity, (and memory, which you can judge while reading this) cause hell, I was a bard after all, Jeff proposed I talk about those days. (Okay, it was in his comments that he proposed I talk about it, but this might be a little easier to digest.)
Originally, Doctor Phostarius, my character, was supposed to go adventuring with Jeff's Bart Bolt in a campaign. You may note Doc seems a little heavy duty, since he started at 6th level, and was outfitted from Bart's adventuring loot, as well as having some "Well, 15 sounds like a good number"statting. As I mentioned before, the DM evaporated, and since I just made a character, Jeff suggested we start recruiting other party members.
The first victim was Jim, from our time at Allen Hall, who we sat down with at the local Mexican restaurant to generate a character, followed by him jumping up from the table and bellowing "I'm the tallest half-elf in all the land!" after a max roll on the height table. If that wasn't our first warning, the name "Bryo Phyta" would have been. Bryo was a half-elf Cleric/Magic-User, meaning we had no real fighting man, Doc being a 2nd ed. Bard. We'd address that after getting some gold, me with hirelings, Jim with fighting dogs "Arf" and "Barf". Jim was "random" to say the least, and I usually say the least about Jim I can.
I suppose I should lay down some ground rules about the campaign before discussing actual play. As Zach says about his group, we didn't play from a primary source. At the beginning, Jeff ran from the 1st ed. AD&D DMG, while players used the 2nd ed. Players Guide. All monster books (MM, MM2, FF)were on the field, and from time to time, Dragon magazine articles were fielded too. Magic was, at my insistence, "know it, and throw it" and without Vancian memorization, spellcasters were much more flexible. "Gandolf was a sixth level wizard" was read, and Basil Polidoris's Conan soundtrack played before big fights. Over time, things mutated, "D&D compatible" games were referenced, the random monster table (I remember it from "Best of Dragon" Vol. 1, where my bandits were statted from as well) entered, Judges Guild products, online articles (this was the late 90's after all), almost anything became fair game.
We started at the stairs down to the Dungeon of Doom (eventually the Mungeon of Moom, when we discovered how messed up (rather, munged together) it was. ) After a fight with some orcs, more of an anti-fight really, since I used a Mage Hand, to which they responded "Oh shit, a mage" and slammed the door in our face, we were riding pretty high. I think it was "strolling right along" that was Jeff's old Dm's line for when a trap was about to be sprung, so we were indeed strolling right along when we got jumped by kobolds. Did I mention we didn't have a Fighting Man, and thus no one to use a "sweep" maneuver? About four rounds of being covered in kobolds later, the first of many after action reports began. A couple more rooms of shit and humanoids, and we went back to town to consolidate our loot.
A pattern emerged over time, with town being a hand-wave away, and not keeping track of encumbrance (it was there, as DM fiat. Jeff would simply declare "that statue is too heavy for both of you to carry" or something similar, until we threw enough money or magic at the problem.) we simply wouldn't spend a night in the dungeon.
We'd gradually map out the current level, check for secret doors, clear survivors, kill any wondering monsters, go back in town, and sell all our loot. Eventually, we'd dealt with enough of the dungeon ecology, we had hirelings to guard our horses, and a wagon to haul conventional treasure (humanoid weapons, spare armor, the rare unburnt tapestry, etc.). SOP was for small unit tactics, the spetum wielding men-at-arms would guard me, while Bryo and the war dogs would close. For larger groups, like the Lizardmen tribe, or the goblins, I would rely on the 10-ft. ceilings and my once-a-day Fireball (7th level, yo) do do the dirty work. For those not familiar with the way things were, a Fireball expanded to fill 33 10ft. cubes. And I was a hell of a firebug.
Many a fight stopped before it began when I asked Jeff "Are they wearing clothes?"or "Do they look flammable?", due to my love of Flaming Sphere and Burning Hands. Greek fire and oil flasks were always on my sheet. This tendency to set all my problems alight led to one of the more memorable encounters in the Mungeon.
We opened a door to a room, and were faced by dozens of goblins, and a Goblin in plate. He nodded, and clanked his visor down. Now, I had a Ring of Fire Resistance (I hadn't drank from the Chalice of Chaos yet) and a Ring of Protection, and I wasn't about to let a goblin think he was my equal. We won initiative, and I cast Fireball. The room was 15x15 or so, so the excess cubes washed over us. Bryo and I survived, while my four footmen, and Arf and Barf didn't. Bryo holds up a dog's burnt corpse in his arms, and I respond "I'm not hungry". If I haven't mentioned I'm a bastard yet, now's the time.
Jim and I slowly chew our way down to the third level or so, occasionally departing the dungeon in dissimilar order. Less charitable types would say I left him for dead, but Jim was Ninja Rain Man when he was by himself. If you were fighting alongside him, and the monster was vulnerable to fire, he would cast Ray of Frost. If you abandoned him in a pit, he would Gaseous Form his way out, solidifying long enough to cast Invisibilty to Undead to get past some Skeletons from earlier.
It's on one of these trips Bryo befriended the Gnomes on level 2.5 (If you've ever been in a library stacks, or worse, U of I STX, you know what I'm getting at.), leading to our escorting the lollipop guild back to their village, and Bryo proposing the great Gnomish Crusade. (Also leading to me later visiting the Gnome village, hidden in a mountain, and Stoneshaping all their air-vents shut before setting the village on fire, and caving in the entrance. It was humane, really.)
Eventually, Ray St. John joined on, and Jim left. We had a couple visitations from Chris and Dave, Chris playing the "Elf-hater" from an old campaign, and another time, Father ****, the Drow Druid. His love for nature was so strong, the plan to ambush one of the emissaries of evil from Dracula's evil temple was "once they're in the clearing, you fireball her", to which I respond "You're telling me your plan is to set the woods on fire?" "Yeah, we kill the girl, and interrogate the half-orc" If you think this sounds like a good plan, you're madder than a sack of assholes.
I'm mentioning this out of order, because the many deaths of Ray's characters are worth a longer post, as was the look on his face when I told him the Drow Druid and I took down McDraculas, an endeavor that killed his first character when we began it.
The Drow Druid (as fine an epithet as any, I keep mentioning it because I still can't believe it a decade later) had two of the largest bears you could possibly have as animal companions, and our first act together was murdering an ogre tribe. You see, I could hypnotize 24 HD worth of opponents, and with a Drow and two bears splitting the throat-slitting, you can get through a pretty good number. We left the Chieftan, who decided working with us would last longer than working against us. Grunty was my kind of scum, he joined the party and moved into Blighton after it was all over. He showed us the employee's entrance, and we commenced breaking Dracula's life.
Now, I'm going to take a self-importance break, and expound on Sam and Tobit for a minute. After charbroiling my last set of men at arms, I had to hire some more, if for nothing else than give Jeff a voice in combat (he ran the NPCs, and I gave orders to them. When necessary, they would wisecrack to keep up the narrative.) Sam and Tobit, after the battle at the temple, would become full fledged, full share, party members. They would carry my body when I got turned to stone, be commanders in my army, and follow me to strange dimensions. During the battle a the temple, they were Zero level.
We entered the temple, picking off guards, and engaging the EHP's remaining henchmen, a cleric, and a female fighter. I took particular pleasure in slow roasting the cleric with a Flaming Sphere. Also, we find out the EHP is a Dracula, when the bears don't do any damage to him, but Sam and Tobit's silver Spetums do (I come prepared). Sam draws Ray's (former) Dwarf's Axe (+1), and hands his Spetum off to Grunty, while the bears kill everyone with a pulse, we turn into an anti-Dracula Kung-Fu movie. With the resident Dracula re-dead, we loot the temple. I bag and tag the female thief's gear, and advertise (Thieves Cant was a viable language selection in the campaign) at the inn, being thanked "as only a 7th level thief could." Tasha later became the Captain of my guard, when her bandits answered the call when I built my keep. (2nd ed Bards, FTW.)
In the future, I'll expound on the change of scale of the campaign, and Ray.
Bart Bolt, comments on Jeff's Blog
Jeff on Munge Mungely